The Confucian Creation of Heaven

Philosophy and the Defense of Ritual Mastery

By Robert Eno

Subjects: Chinese Religion And Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791401910, 349 pages, June 1990
Hardcover : 9780791401903, 349 pages, June 1990

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


I. Setting the Ritual Stage

1. Pre-Confucian Heaven

1. The Ritual Antecedents of Ruism

1.1. the Three Pillars of the Western Chou
1.2. The Patterning of Chou Society

2. T'ien as the King's Good

2.1. T'ien as a Royal Adversary
2.2. The Injustice of T'ien
2.3. Creating a New T'ien


2. Masters of the Dance

1. the Ritual Basis of Ruism

1.1. Rationales for Ritual
1.2. The Decline of Ritual
1.3. Confucius' Career
1.4. Legitimizing Li

2. The Political Role of Ruism


2.1. The Bifurcated Doctrine of Ruism
2.2. The Missing History of the Ru
2.3. The Textual Imperative of Withdrawal

3. The Community of Ru


3.1. The Ruist Study Group
3.2. The Ruist Syllabus
3.3. Philosophers and Funeral Directors


3. The Sage and the Self


1. Practical Totalism: The Ruist Doctrine of Sagehood

1.1 Jen as Totalism
1.2. The Single Thread
1.3. The Ritual Path

2. Sagehood and the Self

2.1. The Public Self
2.2. The Social Self

II. The Confucian Creation of Heaven

4. Two Levels of Meaning: The Role of T'ien in the Analects

1. The Nature of the Text
2. The Implicit Theory of T'ien in the Analects

2.1. The Prescriptive Role of T'ien
2.2. The Descriptive Role of T'ien


3. Confucius' Doctrinal Silence

5. Tactics of Metaphysics: The Role of T'ien in Metaphysics


1. The Nature of the Text
2. The Role of T'ien in Mencius' Political Doctrines and Career
3. The Mencian Theory of T'ien: Human Nature and Personal Decree

3.1. Mencius and Li
3.2. The Mencian Theory of Human Nature
3.3.Hsing and Ming: The Interface and the Prescriptive and Descriptive Dimensions of T'ien


6. Ritual as a Natural Art: The Role of T'ien in the Hsun Tzu

1. The Nature of the Text
2. The Challenge of Naturalism

2.1. Late Warring States Naturalism


3. The Thematic Unity of the Hsun Tzu


3.1. The World of Thing as a Taxonomy
3.2. The Natural Logic of Social Forms
3.3. The Cardinal Valuelessness of Human Nature
3.4. Educating the Sage
3.5. Man's cosmic Role

4. The Hsun Tzu's Theories of T'ien: the "Treatise on T'ien"

4.1. The Portrait of T'ien as Nonpurporsive Nature
4.2. T'ien as Prescriptive Psychology
4.3. Forming a Trinity with Heaven and Earth
4.4. T'ien as a Historical Force
4.5. Miscellaneous T'iens

Conclusion: Sagehood and Philosophy
Appendix A. The Origins of the Term "T'ien"
Appendix B. A Theory of the Origins of the Term "Ju"
Appendix C. Hsun Tzu, "Treatise on T'ien"

This book explores the earliest Confucian texts to find coherent structural principles linking the various facets of Confucian doctrine. Its central theme is that the coherence of early Confucianism emerges only when doctrine is viewed as a function of the unique ritual practice of the early Confucian community.


Demonstrating that the relation between practice and theory in early Confucianism is highly systematic, the author suggests that Confucianism represents a species of 'synthetic' philosophy, distinct from the analytical traditions of the West but equally rigorous in its attempt to disclose the foundations of understanding. He illustrates how theory served as an ancillary activity, expressing ethical insights derived from the systematic structure of core ritual practice, and legitimizing those insights in terms of teleological model of their efficacy in creating a divinely ordained political utopia. The central agenda of the early Confucians is pictured as the preservation and promotion of ritual skills and the aesthetic social perspectives they generate. Metaphysical and political theory serve as practical vehicles mediating between the skill-based philosophy of the early Confucian community and the changing features of the intellectual, social, and political environments in which that community had to survive.

Robert Eno is Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University.


"It looks at the Confucians as a school and at their sociological position, not simply at the ideas of the main thinkers. It proposes a conception of the school as developing their own way of conducting private life and rejects the claim (always hitherto accepted) that they were all yearning for public office and failing to get it. This is an entirely original approach." — A.C. Graham, Brown University